Mere days after proclaiming that LaMelo Ball, the youngest son of Big Baller Brand CEO LaVar Ball, could end up as the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, SPIRE Institute coach Jermaine Jackson doubled down on his previous comments at a recent press conference. He compared the 17-year-old point guard to NBA legend Magic Johnson, among other bold proclamations.
According to USA Today’s Lonzo Wire, Ball’s decision to attend the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, saw him welcomed to the state with a billboard in downtown Cleveland that showed the high school standout striking a similar pose to former Cavaliers superstar LeBron James. On Friday, Jackson continued singing Ball’s praises, speaking to reporters at a press conference announcing the point guard as SPIRE’s newest student-athlete.
“We got the guy who can make the blind see and the cripples walk in LaMelo Ball. Like Magic Johnson said in the ’80s, don’t look down because you might miss something. It’s showtime, baby,” said Jackson, as quoted by WKYC reporter Ben Axelrod on Twitter.
In a separate tweet, Axelrod wrote that Ball is considering playing for several high-profile schools, including the University of North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Michigan State.
Earlier in the week, Jermaine Jackson spoke to TMZ Sports and predicted that Ball might do one better than his older brother, Lonzo, and become a first-overall draft selection. Lonzo Ball, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, was picked second overall in the 2017 NBA Draft after a stellar freshman season at UCLA.
“In my opinion, LaMelo Ball can be the No. 1 pick in a year or two going to the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Jackson commented.
LaMelo Ball said he hopes to play college basketball at a top school. Mentioned North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State.— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) November 9, 2018
As noted by Newsweek, the NBA’s rules do not allow U.S.-based players to enter the annual rookie draft unless they are at least 19-years-old during the draft’s calendar year, and at least one year removed from their class’ high school graduation. That means Ball, who is currently in his senior year of high school, would only be eligible to be drafted by an NBA team in 2020.
Regardless of whether LaMelo Ball lives up to the hype or not, his return to high school basketball and hopes of playing for a college basketball powerhouse have been controversial for a number of reasons. According to a report from Complex, Ball had previously left high school in California to play professionally in Lithuania and, prior to that, launched his own signature Big Baller Brand sneakers. While both moves would normally disqualify a player from competing in the collegiate ranks, the Ball family has maintained that LaMelo never received money for playing overseas and that he was endorsing a product from a family-run business.